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Blog: How a Community Garden Rose From The Ashes of Gang Warfare

The Glassell Park Community Garden is changing a neighborhood.

The Glassell Park Community Garden was born in fire.

In February 2008, a firefight erupted between the Los Angeles Police Department and members of the Drew Street gang. The neighborhood and its schools were locked down for the next nine hours. Residents were moved from their homes and apartments. Students were kept in their classrooms—for bathroom breaks the children had to be accompanied by security personnel.

Some were unhappy with the way the LAPD handled the situation, but as there was a shootout involving automatic weapons, the department’s decision was to err on the side of caution.

Operating out of a house on Drew Street, called the Satellite House for the giant dish in the yard, a family of gang members and drug dealers created fear and pain in that Glassell Park neighborhood. Efforts of the LAPD to curtail their activities had been ineffective—up to this point.

The firefight outraged the community in Glassell Park as well as citywide, from the mayor on down, not to mention federally. Ultimately individuals associated with that house were indicted and convicted on federal racketeering laws.

The house eventually was torn down. Not without a struggle, as the gang tried to maintain its ownership of the house. Ultimately though, Wells Fargo Bank donated the house and property to the City to be used to “enhance the quality of life in the surrounding community.”

The Glassell Park Neighborhood Council and the Drew Street Neighborhood Watch, working with Councilman Eric Garcetti’s office, determined the best use of that land would be to have a community garden—and the Glassell Park Community Garden was born.

Credit must be given to all the official, civic and private entities that contributed to the creation of this Garden. In the end, though it is the gardeners themselves who are building it. First, in 2011, they built the beds. Now they are cultivating and harvesting those plots.

Like any community garden, the Glassell Park Community Garden is being built by the caring and the sweat of its gardeners. They are rising from the terrible ashes of pain and death and creating a place of beauty and respite in one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in a very crowded city.

The second Saturday of every month is Kid’s Garden Day. Millie Macen-Moore and Lois Kern run the program. 

That’s how I got into this: Lois Kern is my wife. She teaches at Washington Irving Middle School, one of the schools that was locked down. She used to teach horticulture there before budget cuts made classes like that disappear. 

On the day of the shootout, she and a colleague had gone off campus to buy lunch. As they returned they saw the lockdown beginning (a sad truth being that many LAUSD teachers are familiar with the signs of a lockdown). They ducked around the backside as the front was being secured. 

Everyone knows that firemen run into burning buildings, that police walk into the darkest places in our City, but it should also be said that teachers’ instinct is  to protect their students. 

When the Glassell Park Community Garden began, Lois saw a chance to teach horticulture to kids again. I have brought zoo doo, dug weeds, watered and cultivated even though there is a perfectly good community garden right across the street. 

That garden is the Eagle Rockdale Community Garden. The ERCG is joining with its sister garden in Glassell Park to host an Open House this coming Sunday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will take place at the Eagle Rock garden, 1103 Rockdale Avenue, L.A. 90041.

We’ll have tours of the garden, a plant sale, a bake sale and more free advice than you can possibly imagine. And it will all be to musical accompaniment, since we are fortunate enough to have musicians among our Garden members.

Parking is limited and we ask that you consider our neighbors when you visit us. Or consider taking the bus. The 180 and 780 drop you at Colorado and Figueroa. The 81 and 181 will bring you to Yosemite and Figueroa. It’s a short walk from either stop. 

You can get precise directions by clicking here.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Maggie April 11, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Correction, the name is not Arco Iris, it is Glassell Park Community Garden..
Mike Woodward April 11, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Thanks, Maggie. I'll see about making the correction in the body of the story. Mike
Ajay Singh (Editor) April 11, 2013 at 04:59 PM
Thanks, Maggie—Arco Iris has been banished from this blog.
Mark A Quiroz April 12, 2013 at 01:22 AM
The community garden was actually created by the Drew Estara Neighborhood watch.Bradley,Maggie Robles,Mark A Quiroz and Maggie Darett Quiroz.They were assisted with this through the tremendous efforts of Mitch Offarel from CD13 at the time.The gathering of the chilldren in the community was a tremendous effort done by Maggie Quiroz .Who was able to have a shed purchased thanks to the generous contribution made by the GPIA.
Mike Woodward April 12, 2013 at 02:07 PM
Mark, Thanks for clarifying and for bringing human faces to the amazing story of the birth of this Community Garden. The sources used to write this blog post were the LA Weekly and the Times combined with what I know my wife went through during the lockdown. This is a compelling story that everyone in LA should know about. Mike
Dwain Wilson April 13, 2013 at 03:47 PM
Yes, this garden is just one of a long string of accomplishments for which Mitch O'Farrell deserves credit. I remember running into him when they were in the thick of it, just a few days before the opening. I got chills listening to him talk about this collaborative effort.

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